LONDON — England will defend their ranking as the top Test team in the world when they come up against a strong South African side in the first of three Test matches at the Oval today.
The pre-match build-up has concentrated on two outstanding fast bowling attacks – but, as England fast bowler James Anderson and South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis pointed out on Tuesday, the bowlers will have to get past some outstanding batsmen.
“It’s the two best teams in the world,” said Anderson. “Both bowling attacks have been successful over the past 12 to 18 months, but if you look at both batting line-ups, they’re potentially as strong as well. It’s going to be a clash of two really good teams.”
Meanwhile Kallis added: “It’s going to be an interesting battle to see who comes out on top. Both sides have got good batters as well. It’s going to be a fantastic series.”
South Africa edged England 2-1 in 2008, the last time the two teams met in England, but England have been unbeaten at home since then, rising to number one in the world rankings under captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower.
However, South Africa have not lost an away series since they were beaten in Sri Lanka in 2006. They are ranked third, but will take the top place from England if they win the series.
Anderson, Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan have become a formidable fast bowling force for England.
But South Africa have some heavy artillery as well in Dale Steyn, the world’s top-ranked bowler, the tall Morne Morkel and the accurate Vernon Philander, who has taken 51 wickets at an average of 14,15 since making his debut against Australia last November.